Saturday, August 18, 2007

Why Aer Lingus is right

Aer Lingus are dead right to pull out of Shannon on a commercial basis, they have a finite amount of resources in particular slots into Heathrow and it is their responsibility to their shareholders that they seek to maximise the profit that can be derive from those resources.

So within those boundaries the Aer Lingus management have been consistent with what one would expect a public company. Those boundaries of course were set by the previous owners who in the unique environment of a privatisation had a chance to lay down some markers to shape the company's business into the future and indeed by retaining a significant share holding suggested, publicly at least, that they would continue to be active shareholders. Much along the lines of ethical shareholding whereby people use their portfolio to patronise certain types of business over others. The term "Golden Share" was pointedly used by the government over the course of the company being floated. I'm not sure for whom this share is now Golden, it sure ain''t the customers in the West and Mid-West, unless we're to look to the world of adult entertainment for inspiration.

Fact is that it isn't the decision that Aer Lingus has made that should be the focus of people's ire but instead the manner of the privatisation of the airline along with the Heathrow slots which has placed Aer Lingus in this situation. Yet, who has been asking the hard questions along those lines?

We're had RTe favouring the local FF apparatus in terms of coverage, yet never asking them what they personally had proposed or contributed during the Dail debates on the privatisation of the airline to ensure that the management couldn't make this type of decision. We've had no legal opinion produced by the government that demonstrates why some means to retain control of the Heathrow slots in the state's hands while floating the rest of the company.

The people of the Mid-West voted for FF in overwhelming numbers despite no significant inward investment into the region over the past number of years. And why are they treated so poorly you might wonder? Basically my view is if you continuously turn the other cheek you end up black and blue. I hate to use the analogy as it may suggest to some that I'm making light of a very serious social issue but much of the Irish electoral population behaves like an abused spouse, making excuses for why they are mistreated, continually turning blind eye to every indiscretion and persisting with a steadfast belief in every half arsed reason for why it happened this time and how next time will be different, and accepting that the other lot would be worse. Or so they are told.

As Fintan O'Toole has pointed out people get what they vote for; the fact that they don't bother to pay that much attention isn't really the politicians fault. In a democracy it is the voters who are ultimately the ones pulling the strings.

It isn't that people are thick just that they think they have more money than sense. What's the betting that we see an ex-FFer running as an independent in the Mid-West come the next general election on a platform of returning Aer Lingus to Shannon and the neglect of the region? And that we'll see the promise of one route into Heathrow in time for the 2009 locals.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Finally a minister speaks out!

Look at the latest wheeze from the government that can't bring itself to comment on the pull out of Aer Lingus from Shannon.

Mary Hanafin, minister for Education, wants to split maths! into business maths and science maths (the suggestion that we might have two Irish exams for the leaving has previously left the minister aghast at the concept).

Quoting from the article “The Minister said there are students who are very good at science and students who are very good at business. “Why do they both have to do the same maths paper when you can have a little twist on it that can make it more accessible?” ”

Yep that’s the answer to all our problems because 2+2 doesn’t necessary add up to 4 in the business world. Indeed it could be special type of maths where you can get a formula where £30,000 could really be $45,000, or Ir£28,000 4 shillings and sixpence or whatever the lodgement was.

There is a serious problem in Ireland with the teaching of maths and science but this approach is all about indulging a mindset that say "hard" Maths for weirdos not normal people who get to get sexy jobs and get rich. What next - maths for girls?

Brainy 8-year-old Lisa Simpson is delighted until she attends the girls' math class. "How do numbers make you feel?" the teacher begins. "What does a plus sign smell like? Is the number 7 odd or just different?" Aghast, Lisa poses as a boy to attend the ghettolike boys' school, where real maths is being taught.

Or perhaps we will split Art at Leaving Cert into Art and Art for the tasteless.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The prancing of political geldings

Over the last week or so since the decision of Aer Lingus management to pull out of the Shannon Heathrow, we've witnessed the energetic prancing of political geldings, figures of local and national prominence, minister junior and senior and TDs new and old all giving it loads in front of the cameras and at public meetings but no sign that they will do anything in the Dail when it resumes. I think a vote of no confidence in Dempsey is certainly in order, and I would question the resolve of some of the mid-West TDs to exercise some basic follow through on this issue.

Good examples of the prancing ponies are Tony Killeen telling us that Aer Lingus will be feeling the pressure on the PR side of things - FYI they're pulling out Tony what does it matter to them what people down here think if they are no longer doing business here, Niall Collins telling us on PrimeTime that we should be stepping back. I haven't been too wildly impressed with the contributions of Pat Breen of FG either, taking almost all his time on PrimeTime before getting to the nub of the issue which is the connection to a hub which is what Heathrow is, this is not about getting to London, it is about getting to Heathrow.

This is what Minister Cullen (sure don't we miss him now!) had to say in 2005 about ensuring Irish consumers would have access to Heathrow post the government reducing its stake. So what were the options explored and why were they not proceeded with? Was someone misled here was it the minister or the public?

I'm surprised no one has made this comparison of journeys, say your intention is to get a flight in Heathrow on to some other location say for example Tokyo (I hear it is a bit of a backwater place that is transforming itself into an up and coming place of international business), you leave Castletroy to be in Shannon at least 1 hour before the flight which only takes under an one hour but you can allow about one hour to get from from Terminal 1 to your gate in another Terminal in Heathrow. Because in the current situiation with Aer Lingus doing a code share your luggage makes its own way across the airport, and you (the person travelling) are already checked through.So you arrive at the gate in good time and calm and collected all only 3 hours or so after you left the house.

In the new situation if you fly with RyanAir you will have to wait around and collect you luggage before moving off to the next Terminal but in this case you will be crossing London instead of justr crossing an airport with 3 train journeys from Stansted into Liverpool St, then the tube then the train from Paddington out to Heathrow. None of those changes is for the faint-hearted. I guess Dempsey is so used to have someone else carry his luggage for him that he doesn't remember what travel is like for the little people. And how long would you need to allow for you to cross from Gatwick/Stansted to Heathrow 3 hours allowance wouldn't be crazy (2 hours would be cutting it very fine indeed) and remember you have to be at the check-in desk 2 hours before departure as unlike the existing model you aren't already checked through. So you would be presenting yourself at the gate 7 hours after you left the door of house. Some time difference there I'm sure you will agree.

I would suggest that local business should sponsor a trip by two people accompanied by the press, with video capability to demonstrate the different paths they will have to take to get to a flight going from Heathrow to Tokyo. They would be two very different journeys I reckon and a good example of why telling people that they can still get to London is patronising.

I do know from talking to some folks at the college in UL that one big problem would be that staff use Heathrow as a location for meetings with people from other European universities. As it is a hub it is much easier to a few people to fly there and have the meeting and fly home without ever leaving the airport than to be flying to another location and staying overnight some place.

For students in UL, Euramus in particular I can foresee quite a lot of problem with access and this must move UL down the pecking order for choice locations. And speaking more internationally it will be a problem for those coming from Asia particularly China which is viewed a as a huge stragegic opportunity for Ireland.

I would also think that the decentralisation of the Overseas development staff from the Department of Foreign Affairs must now be seriously at risk. You can hardly move the staff to a place that doesn't have direct access to one of the major airline hubs.